Another Alien Astronaut, from left, guitarist Frank Daniel, bassist Chris Hayes, singer/guitarist Jon Gosa and drummer Lance Barnes, will bring their unique brand of rock to the Threeforty Creative Group stage Saturday. Special photo
ALBANY — Just before the turn of the century, back when Albany had the makings of a thriving little music scene and new artists of varying talent levels were popping up every week, a core group of musicians made their bones in bands whose staying power far surpassed the typical garage combo.
Bands like Exit 7, Three Richards, Discount Superstar, Monroe Brown, The Sure Thing and Ancient Harmony developed fan bases whose loyalties survive today some decade-plus later.
Four surviving members of those bands — Jon Gosa, Chris Hayes, Frank Daniel and Lance Barnes, artists who’ve taken their passion for music way beyond casual and who turned out to be members of a local mutual admiration society — started gravitating toward each other a few weeks ago. Through the fateful turn of some cosmic wheel, the quartet joined forces to become Another Alien Astronaut, a coming together that has sparked a mini rock music revival in the region.
“My wife Anna and I made offers on two other houses when we moved back to Albany, and for some reason both fell through,” Gosa, a prolific singer/songwriter/musician, said. “This room (his self-styled recording studio) sold me on this (west Albany) house. I told Anna I could either do this as a hobby or make it a true studio.”
While he was setting up his Anna-approved studio, Gosa sent out feelers to former bandmates and other musicians he knew about the possibility of creating new music. Other than a few solo gigs, he hadn’t played seriously in a while, and he’d amassed quite a collection of new songs.
But for reasons of convenience, ego and differing wavelengths, Gosa’s plans didn’t pan out. He recorded a promising three-song demo with a group of musicians whose agendas were no match for his own, so he scrapped the project.
“I figured the studio would be like that ‘Field of Dreams’ quote: ‘If you build it, they will come’,” Gosa said. “And we did get off to a pretty good start. But the people I was playing with lived too far away or they let their ego get in the way or we just didn’t jibe.
“It was frustrating.”
Just as Gosa had relocated to Albany from north Georgia, Hayes and his family did as well. The timing of his move proved uncannily perfect and fit the final missing piece into the AAA puzzle.
“Jon told me he was looking for someone to play bass and sing backing vocals who didn’t have commitments with other bands,” Hayes said. “I told him I knew someone like that. I listened to a couple of the songs he’d recorded and told him ‘I’m in’.”
Now, with one charity gig under their belt and a self-titled EP ready for release, Another Alien Astronaut are set to make their mark on Southwest Georgia music fans with a show Saturday at the Threeforty Creative Group’s Dawson Road stage. The band will do so with a great deal of anticipation.
“I’ve been in a lot of bands, but this is the best I’ve ever worked with,” Gosa said. “They’re the most professional, the most proficient ... they’re so hyper-focused on the music. Ego and pride tend to get us all at some time, but these guys all checked their egoes at the door.”
Hayes’ comments are eerily similar.
“No disrespect to Discount Superstar; I loved those guys and loved being a part of that band,” he said. “But this is the best thing musically I’ve ever been a part of. It’s one of the best fits. I listen to the playback of the stuff we do, and I find myself going ‘Wow’.”
If the names of the four musicians in AAA sound familiar to Southwest Georgia music fans, it’s no surprise. Drummer Barnes has played with Discount Superstar and Queen Kong; lead guitarist Daniel — one of the most unassuming practitioners of the art ever to slam a whammy bar — started his career with “some metal band that we never got around to naming,” then progressed to gigs with The Sure Thing, The Stiffs, Discount and an “in-limbo” project called Blastov that he and Hayes worked on together.
Bassist Hayes, meanwhile, has played in Exit 7, Discount, Blastov and a revived Exit 7; while singer/songwriter/guitarist Gosa was in a band called Legacy for a brief stint before forming Three Richards — which had a strong run in the Atlanta and Athens areas before the trio called it quits — Red Eye Johnson and Whitebread.
The quartet took the bones of what Gosa had started with AAA and fleshed it into a five-song EP that has elements of all the bands they collectively played with as well as bits taken from such rock royalty as Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age and the Black Keys.
“You listen to those really great rock bands, and what they do sounds simple,” Gosa said. “And it is, to a degree. But it’s really hard to take something that’s simple and make it into something memorable.
“That’s the sound we’re looking for with this band. We’re excited about bringing rock back.”
Gosa is the primary songwriter for Another Alien Astronaut, but he credits the other musicians with taking his ideas and turning them into a finished product that sometimes ends in a place he never dreamed of.
“I’m not going to tell a guy like Lance Barnes where to go with his drumming; I’m not going to tell Chris Hayes to put a boom-boom-boom-boom-boom run in a song,” Gosa said. “Those guys know what they’re doing; they find a song’s rhythm.
“And Frank is one of the most unique monsters I’ve ever seen playing guitar. I’ll try to explain to him what I want in a song, and he might or might not get it. Then I’ll say ‘channel your inner Keith Richards,’ and he takes off with it. He plays the coolest riffs without ever stepping on anyone’s toes.”
Barnes — he’s the quintessential family guy with his feet in high finance and his heart with wife Stacey and kids Madeline and Josh — said playing with AAA has allowed him to realize his dream of creating music.
“In (Discount and Queen Kong), it was never about creating music; it was about learning drum parts,” he said. “I found an instant connection with these guys, and it’s easy to play around the songs Jon writes. He’s very rhythmical; he writes like a drummer.
“I love playing with this band, and I’m impressed with the infinite pool of creative licks Jon comes up with. He’s a musical genius, but he’s also completely normal, with no big ego. That he’s willing to share his genius is not normal.”
Daniel, who grew to love the “noises that you can make with a guitar,” said the 500 to 600 gigs he played with Discount Superstar offered a paradox he’d never experienced with other bands.
“We got locked into it, and we couldn’t give up the money,” he said. “The sheer boredom made me sick of playing those same songs over and over, but we couldn’t quit.
“One day Chris said something that really stuck with me. He said, ‘Remember, guys, playing music is fun. Isn’t that why we all got into this?’ I’d forgotten that important fact, forgotten about making those cool sounds. Now, that’s what we’re looking for with this band.”
AAA show off their chops with an impromptu mini-set at Gosa’s studio on a recent Saturday with 20-year-old powerhouse singer/songwriter Abi Permenter — who will open for the band at its Threeforty show — and guitarist Zack Etheridge among a small group listening in.
Originals “Take a Piece and Go,” “Tonight You Should Hang Around,” “Heaven Got Sold” and “The Only Road Home” offer a glimpse of a band that has developed a synchronicity not typically seen in combos with so little time together. (AAA’s EP and other individual tracks by the group are, incidentally, currently available on iTunes and amazon.com and will soon go live on 37 other distributors.) Each player has moments to shine in each song, a testament to Gosa’s way with a tune.
(Permenter later blows everyone away with her powerful voice in a soulful take on Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams,” fueling anticipation that Saturday’s show could very well be something special.)
“Everyone who comes to the show (which kicks off at 7:30 p.m.) will get a free copy of the EP,” Gosa said. “It’s a start on the full album we’re working on, and we hope to record a live album as well. If we can make that happen, we’ll have an EP, a full-length album and a live album all in 2012. It just shows you what you can do today with the technology that’s available.”
Veteran engineer Rodney Mills, who has worked with James Brown, Journey, the Dooby Brothers and .38 Special, among others, mastered the songs on the EP.
Daniel notes that while all of the members of AAA were cutting their musical teeth, their various bands usually rehearsed at the same local storage facility. When the bands weren’t rehearsing themselves, they watched the other bands with whom they developed something of a respectful rivalry.
“We’d hear one band do a song by a (famous) band, so we’d do a different song by the same band,” he laughed. “Then we’d do something else that we thought was cool, and another of the bands would try and find something to top what we were doing.
“It’s funny to think about now, but what came out of that was a deep respect for the guys in the other bands.”
That’s why, according to Hayes, the timing was right for Another Alien Astronaut.
“I already had so much respect for all of these guys; that’s why I jumped at the chance to play with them,” he said. “Man, it took all the stars aligning for us to come together; this is something that’s been 20 years in the making.
“We listen to as much live music as we can now, and the one missing element that stands out is rock and roll. We’ve gotten together with the idea of bringing it back.”